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Cash transfers to the most vulnerable households in Liberia

BOMI COUNTY (LIBERIA), 4 February 2010 – The Government of Liberia with support from its partners – UNICEF, the European Commission and the Government of Japan – is launching the first cash transfer pilot scheme in Liberia to help reduce poverty, hunger and starvation in extremely poor and labor constrained households living in the pilot area and for children to realize their basic rights to education and nutrition.

The programme aims at providing regular money payments to the most vulnerable families without any adult who can work. These are families who cannot fend for themselves for reasons beyond their control. Typically these households consist of people too old to work or too young or disabled or chronically sick, and child headed households. The cash will increase their economic power and allow them to spend on the priorities that they will identify and provide better care and protection for their children.

“Today is the beginning of another historic development event in Liberia and a breaking opportunity to reducing poverty, hunger and starvation in all households which are ultra poor and labour constrained,” said Minister Amara Konneh of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, during his keynote address at the launch of the pilot social cash transfer scheme in Bomi county. “I call on the donor community’s continued support in the area of social protection of vulnerable groups in Liberia. With your help, we can break the poverty cycle, and give hope for a brighter future to the children and families from very poor and vulnerable households.”

The cash transfer programme meets the needs of families that might fall outside of the social safety net.

“The families targeted are usually left out from traditional poverty reduction programmes and are slow to respond to other programmes like credit or savings, public works and food security,” explained Isabel Crowley, UNICEF Representative in Liberia. “By providing them with regular money, we want to fill the gap in the poverty reduction and ensure that their children can grow healthy and educated.”

In certain cases, extreme lack of income can force families to resort to harmful coping mechanisms such as prostitution, child labour or criminality. While there is a multitude of social protection needs in Liberia, the most common need is a reliable minimum income. Each qualified family will receive between 10 to 25 dollars per month depending on the household size. Those who send their children to primary and secondary school will receive a bonus of 2 and 4 dollars per child respectively.

The initial pilot scheme will be implemented for a period of two years in Bomi County. According to Liberia’s 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy, Bomi was identified as one of the poorest regions in the country based on basic socio-economic indicators.

Liberia’s fourteen-year civil war ended in 2003, leaving fifty percent of the population in abject poverty. The country’s PRS estimates that more than 1.3 million people out of a total population of 3.5 million people are living in extreme poverty today. Like anywhere else in the world, poverty has left the greatest mark on children, especially on their health and education. Children comprise almost fifty percent of the population, and 13 out of every 100  of them are dying before they reach the age of five due to easily preventable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections. 

Malnutrition remains a major underlying cause of deaths, with 36 per cent of children stunted.

Thousands of children are missing out on their right to education with primary school net enrolment rate still very low at 33 per cent . Sexual violence is a contributing factor to high teenage pregnancy rates which are forcing many girls to drop out of school.  The situation of girls is precarious with up to 39 per cent (aged 15–19) having experienced violence .

Today the country is striving to rebuild and lift its people out of poverty, disease and death. Although there is still a long way to go and challenges are many, UNICEF will continue to work closely with the government, development partners and communities in improving the situation of children in Liberia, so that every child can grow up healthy, educated and safe from violence, abuse and exploitation.

For additional information, please contact:
Miraj Pradhan, Communication Officer, UNICEF Liberia;
Tel + 231 6 282 074; email: mpradhan@unicef.org

Fred Odongkara, Reports Officer, UNICEF Liberia
Tel + 231 6 469356; email: fodongkara@unicef.org




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